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Wearing its Scarface-quoting title with heavy irony, The World Is Yours is a French gangster comedy that zips along with all the bright, bouncy energy of a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon. Greek-born French director Romain Gavras, son of the legendary Costa-Gavras, is best known for his award-winning music videos for the likes of M.I.A. and Jay-Z. His signature visual flair is evident in almost every frame of his glossy second feature, which premiered as part of the Directors’ Fortnight section at Cannes.
If we can extrapolate anything from the blockbuster lines, rammed screenings and riotous applause that greeted its Cannes launch, The World Is Yours should do healthy business when it opens domestically in August. International prospects are less assured, given that French-language comedies have a very spotty export record outside Francophone markets. But a starry cast of globally feted Gallic icons including Vincent Cassel and Isabelle Adjani could help open doors overseas for this shallow but zingy crowd-pleaser.
Rising French screen star Karim Leklou (A Prophet) leads a large multicultural cast as Fares, a minor foot soldier in a heavily North African crime syndicate operating from the high-rise housing projects of Paris. Harboring secret ambitions to go straight, settle down with a nice girl and start a legit franchise business exporting ice cream, Fares knows deep down he is more mild-mannered mummy’s boy than mobster. Unfortunately for him, his actual mother Danny (Adjani) is a domineering uber-vamp who has gambled away all his savings on her own high-rolling schemes.
Desperate for quick cash to fuel his business plans, Fares agrees to take on a high-risk mission to pick up a consignment of drugs from a thuggish Scottish gangster Bruce (Sam Spruell) based in the low-rent holiday resort of Benidorm in southern Spain. The loose-cannon team accompanying Fares on the trip includes Henry (Cassel), a garrulous dimwit consumed by dumb conspiracy theories, and gold-digging beauty Lamya (Oulaya Amamra), whose loyalty seems highly negotiable.
When the deal goes sour and Fares loses a mountain of money, he has to act quickly and decisively to save his skin. Calling on his formidable mother for help, he resorts to increasingly desperate tactics to recover the stolen cash, from safe-cracking and kidnapping to an explosive pirate raid on a cargo boat. All this comic-book carnage is well orchestrated by Gavras, albeit utterly preposterous even by the reality-warping standards of action thrillers.
The screenplay to The World Is Yours is sporadically hilarious though rarely subtle, relying a little too heavily on boorish stereotypes and slapstick violence for its broad humor. Gavras may be channeling Brian De Palma by way of Qunetin Tarantino in his mind, but the final effect is closer to early Guy Ritchie. That said, the film’s sunny visuals, dynamic camerawork and lively soundtrack are all redeeming elements. Original score pieces by the hip British electronic artist Jamie XX are counterpointed by a jukebox selection of ironically corny chansons and vintage soft-rock anthems, including Toto’s kitsch karaoke classic “Africa.”
The lively, crowded cast is also a strong selling point, and keeps the comic chemistry fizzing. While Leklou exudes a puppyish charm well-suited to his sensitive beta-male protagonist, Cassel relishes a rare showcase for his deadpan clowning skills. Commendably, he also appears to be channeling Steven Seagal’s hair and beard. Adjani is a little wasted in her shrill caricature role, but she still gives great ballsy matriarch with pleasing overtones of Absolutely Fabulous. Special credit is due to Scottish screen newcomer Gabby Rose, who plays Bruce’s prematurely wise preteen daughter Brittany with an easy naturalism uncommon in child actors.
Production companies: Iconoclast Films, Chi-Fou-Mi
Cast: Karim Leklou, Vincent Cassel, Isabelle Adjani, Oulaya Amamra, Gabby Rose, Sam Spruell, Sofian Khammes, Mounir Amamra, Mahamadou Saengare, Francois Damiens
Director: Romain Gavrais
Screenwriters: Romain Gavras, Noe Debre, Karim Boukercha
Producers: Charles Marie, Anthonioz Mourad Belkeddar, Jean Duhamel, Nicolas Lhermite, Vincent Mazel, Hugo Selignac
Cinematographer: Andre Chemetoff
Editor: Benjamin Weill
Music: Jamie XX, Sebastian
Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Directors’ Fortnight)
Sales company: Studio Canal